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From a town to a community.

Collaborating is a catalyst for bringing communities and cultural institutions together to create arts education opportunities for schools. Collaborating influences parents, community groups, and institutions to play a more significant role in the success of schools. In the rural town of Mineral Wells, West Virginia, community activism and collaboration relocated a one-room schoolhouse that is now used by the community, local scholars, and the school for research, a museum, and heritage programs. The community found their efforts both rewarding and informative, enhancing their appreciation of their heritage, culture, and local community.


Volunteers moved the one-room school from its original location due to a relocation of the highway. The unoccupied school was scheduled to be demolished when a teacher, Esther Carroll, organized the Living Heritage Museum Project. She saw the school as a local archive and as an opportunity for integrated learning.

The museum project came about through the efforts of volunteers and businesses that donated money, labor, and material. Children, parents, and community members gathered 930 pounds of black walnuts, had a penny drive, and sold young trees to help fund the project. The one-room school is located on the school campus and is the focus of the school's Living Heritage Museum program.

Exploring heritage gives a sense of place. The community and school wanted to go beyond heritage by creating an extension that connected heritage to culture and the arts. The community hired David Morris, a Mountain Cultural artist, and me, an educator and Mountain Cultural artist, to be the artists-in-residence who would connect heritage to culture through the arts.

Establishing Goals

The first step, a community in-service, was challenging for all involved. Community members, educators, and artists-in-residence attended. We used that time to establish goals and discuss ways of connecting art forms to their community and curriculum. We then brainstormed with the teachers to determine the issues of the community and regional resources. Teachers had six weeks for students to research, explore, and discuss issues. The issues were integrated into all subjects and explored in a variety of ways. One goal was to teach skills that were life-long and could be transferred to other situations or needs.

Sharing Information

The unit began with an investigation of oral, local, regional, state, and world histories on early education. The fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students interviewed community members who had attended one-room schools, as well as other school settings. Students then brought their notes from the interviews to school, reporting orally what they had learned and relating the experiences of their subjects. After sharing what they learned with the classes, students wrote their interviews into story form.

Exploring Traditions

The information in the children's reports was integrated into art forms. They investigated present and past artistic interpretations, including handmade books and story quilts. Students researched local and state authors and illustrators. We discussed book illustration as an art form. We compared book illustrations, noting similarities and differences in styles, art media, and appropriateness for age groups. Students printed the hand-bound books on high-quality paper and illustrated and colored them by hand.

Many teachers used quilts as an example of a storytelling tradition. Quilts were used also to explore color, form, math, geometry, ecological, and gender issues. Critically examining the history of recycling through quilting provided a discourse to discover the need for recycling a variety of items today. Paper quilts were made as an outcome of their recycling examination.

Awareness Through Art

On the last day of the residence, books, quilts, and other projects were on display in the one-room schoolhouse. The community was. invited to tour the schoolhouse and the other school classrooms. Food and toys, made by the students, were sold to help continue the support of their Living Heritage Program.

A town became a community and the center was a one-room school. Students understood the interconnectedness of the past and present and to the world around us. They learned that art documents history, news, culture, and people. They learned to tell their own story.

No matter where the location, every child, culture, and community has a story that has been, is being, or can be translated into art forms. The objective is to produce culturally proud citizens that value diversity, traditions, community, and the arts through critical analysis and rituals of life.



Students demonstrate how history, culture, and the visual arts can influence each other in making and studying works of art.

Author's Note: The artists-in-residence were partially funded by the Department of Culture and History, Arts and Humanities Section and The Ohio State University Newark Research Grant. David and I thank the principal and teachers who welcomed us in their classrooms, and allowed us to turn their lives upside down for a week, and finally to all the students and community for their support and hard work.

Christine Ballengee Morris is an assistant professor of art education at The Ohio State University in Newark, Ohio.
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Title Annotation:community participation in relocation of schoolhouse in Mineral Wells, West Virginia
Author:Morris, Christine Ballengee
Publication:School Arts
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U5WV
Date:Mar 1, 2002
Previous Article:A nurturing environment.
Next Article:Young at Art. (Books For Young Readers).

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